10 Minutes with: SoleShare

The Staff Canteen

Throughout June we've been focusing on fish so, to round up the month we took a closer look at SoleShare, London's community-supported fishery. Sustainable fishing from local sources has been a priority at Soleshare since Jack Clarke and Theresa Douthwright started the business in 2013. The Staff Canteen caught up with co-founder and marine conservationist, Theresa to find out more.

boat day low res“Before starting SoleShare, Jack and I were both involved with different things," explained Theresa. “Jack was working for a marine conservation charity whilst I was doing the same type of thing, but in Canada.

“I met up with Jack and we were both inspired by the community-supported fishery model in the US. And, after meeting a few times, we thought the model could work well in London."

SoleShare works in a similar way to a veg box. The customer chooses how much fish they want, how often they want to receive it and where they want to collect it from (bulk orders can be delivered directly to restaurants).

SoleShare sources its fish from local and sustainable fisheries and get the fish straight from small-scale fishermen. Jack and Theresa only purchase fish from fishermen who use methods that have been approved by SoleShare, for example: static nets, pots, rod and line. Theresa explained: “A big part of SoleShare is to encourage people to make more sustainable choices."

The boxes are made using the fisherman's catch of the day, so the customers will receive the species of fish that are in season. Also, the customer often won't know what they will be eating until a few hours before collecting. Theresa said: “Certain fish are better to choose than others, and it also depends on the seasonality of a particular fish."1H2B8707 low res

Purchasing fish in this way means that SoleShare's customers receive fresh fish that has been sustainably sourced. The scheme also encourages people to try new species of fish that they may not have tasted before, or even heard of.

Theresa and Jack are eager to expand SoleShare and introduce the service to more chefs and restaurant owners. Theresa explained: “We are keen to get more chefs and restaurants signed up to SoleShare and buying fish from us because we've had such good feedback from the restaurants that we are working with."

“It's for chefs who really appreciate the freshness." Theresa explained, “The chefs get our fisherman's catch of the day, so it's usually caught the very same day or the day before."

She added: “SoleShare works well for chefs who like having a changing menu for example, a seasonal menu. The fish is top quality, but requires chefs that are able to deal with spontaneity because they won't know what they're getting until the day."

FullSizeRender (1) low resWhilst Jack and Theresa are interested in offering its services to the catering industry SoleShare currently gets most of its business from individual buyers and the general public.

To help their customers get the most out of the fish they receive Jack and Theresa offer workshops in the evenings. The sessions are open to anyone, but the majority of attendants are members of SoleShare. Theresa said: “People usually come on a one-off basis. It tends to be people who lack confidence when it comes to working with fish and we found that by the end of the workshops people feel a lot more confident."

The skills workshops usually last two hours and are run by Jack and Theresa. The sessions provide an opportunity for people who attend to develop their basic skills, understanding of sustainable fishing and the importance of using local sources. Theresa explained: “Talking about sustainable fishing is inherently built into our workshops because it's such a big part of what SoleShare is about."

At the workshops Jack and Theresa teach people basic practical skills such as, how to clean and gut fish. Attendants are also shown how to work with round fish for example, mackerel and flatfish for example, sole.

Theresa said: “Jack tends to handle the fish partlanding page  low res of the workshop and I deal with the shellfish, if we have any, especially the oysters. I have a small oyster bar pop up that I run on the side."

Jack and Theresa like to keep the amount of people in the workshops quite small so they can help everyone individually. Theresa said: “We tend to keep numbers fairly low to have that one-to-one contact with people. Generally we have between eight and ten people per work shop."

As well as the workshops SoleShare also provide weekly recipes and top tips. Theresa said: “All of our fish through our box scheme is whole so it's important to us to educate our members and help build their confidence in the kitchen."

By Abbie Cattano...

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th June 2015

10 Minutes with: SoleShare